Hendon made a fantastic start to the new Ryman League Premier Division season with a 4-0 victory over one of the preseason title favourites Thamesmead Town at Thamesmead Sports Ground. The Greens gave the Mead a lesson in clinical finishing and whilst deserving the victory were probably flattered by the four-goal margin.
Six players made their Hendon debuts, Chris Seeby, Michael Duberry, Jefferson Louis and Tony Taggart in the starting 11 and substitutes Brandon Horner and George Bowerman. A seventh, former loanee Anthony Thomas, is now a fully-fledged member of the squad.
Thamesmead were making their debut in the Ryman League Premier Division following their Division One North playoff final success in May, and their squad was essentially a new one. Maybe their most high-profile signing was striker Jon Main, but he was not introduced until an hour had gone.
The first 20 minutes were very cagey and neither team was given any sight of the other team's goal. Carl McCluskey and Michael Duberry struck up an immediate understanding and Stuart Zanone and Tyrus Gordon-Young got little change out of either. Jack Bennett got the nod at left back and after a tentative start, grew into the role, while Chris Seeby quickly linked well with Dave Diedhiou in front of him.
Hendon had a big escape in the 22nd second minute when Lee O'Leary attempted to head a ball back to Berkley Laurencin, but it was not hard enough. Zanone anticipated and reached the ball just outside the penalty area. His lob beat the stranded Laurencin, but struck the crossbar before Duberry cleared the danger.
Almost immediately, Hendon went down to the other end and Jefferson forced Rob Budd into a very good save. The Hendon opener came in the 31st minute and it was more that a little special.
Taggart made a great run down the left wing, exchanging passes with Bennett, before delivering a cross which James Donovan cleared. He got the ball out of the box, but only as far as Casey Maclaren - captain on the occasion of his 200th first-team appearance for Hendon.
Maclaren's shot from around 30 yards went like a tracer shell into the net, with Budd's dive being little more than for show. The loyal midfielder's special day suddenly became even more special.
Putting efforts on target remained a problem for Thamesmead and when a deep free-kick, moments later, eluded McCluskey, Zanone put a free header inches wide of the far post. In the circumstances, he really should have done better.
Just before half-time, Thamesmead - who had been forced to replace Theo Fairweather-Johnson with Robert Carter - missed another opportunity when Jack Hopkins fired a 22-yard drive over the crossbar.
Six minutes into the second half, Budd was called into duty again, making a fine save to push aside a rasping drive from Dean Cracknell who, with O'Leary and Maclaren appeared to cover almost every blade of grass on the Thamesmead pitch.
With an hour gone, Zanone made way for Main. He had been on the pitch barely a minute when wriggled between McCluskey and Bennett before going to ground. The referee wasn't interested in awarding a penalty.
Taggart's afternoon ended when Thomas replaced him, giving Hendon greater potency up front. It was a refreshingly positive move by a team leading 1-0 away from home on the opening day of the season.
Midway through the second half, Bennett and McCluskey went for the same downfield ball and neither got to it. It left with Gordon-Young with a free run at goal, but his dink over Laurencin bounced into the side-netting.
A minute later, McCluskey made a great block to deny the same player and the ball was quickly cleared to the other. There, it was Jay Porter who put his body on the line to prevent a second Hendon goal.
The second half became rather bitty with two or three lengthy injury breaks, so when Hendon scored their second goal, there were almost 78 minutes on the clock, though five had been lost to stoppages.
It was superb team goal, started by Bennett, who ran 30 yards towards the Thamesmead half. He drilled a superb ball to the opposite wing, where Thomas brought the ball under control and immediately waltzed around his marker.
Reaching level with the penalty spot, Thomas delivered a superb teasing cross, too high for Budd, Hopkins and John Scarborough to deal with. It was, however, at a perfect height for Louis, alone at the far post and his header gave Budd no chance.
That really signalled the end of Thamesmead's challenge. Cracknell had another goalbound effort superbly saved by Budd and a mazy run by Seeby should have seen him finish with his name on the scoresheet, but his final touch was little more than a pass to Budd, who had dived far too early and was grateful the ball rolled slowly to him.
Diedhiou and Louis were withdrawn, with Bowerman and Horner taking over and the pair combined with Duberry to give Thomas a goal with five minutes remaining. The ball into the box wasn't dealt with and Thomas did the rest from a couple of yards out.
The additional time board had just been raised with a scant five minutes on it â€“ but there was no way back for Thamesmead. And their unhappy afternoon was made even worse when a superb right wing cross from Thomas was spectacularly headed home by Horner.
Hendon manager Gary McCann said, "I felt we were very professional. One or two of our errors could have been punished and that might have been a different story. However, I thought we were in complete control once we had gone 2-0 up.
"I thought, apart from a couple of small errors, our back five was excellent and Casey Maclaren on his 200th appearance was outstanding, and what a goal he scored too. That said, the passage of play for our second goal was superb and I enjoy great team goals even more than the spectacular ones.
"I think we can perform much better and we will have to be better. But I don't want to take the gloss off a superb victory. I thought it was going very tough against a newly-promoted team with all their new players."